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In spite of Boston being a supremely healthy city, natural skincare products have been hard to come by in a boutique experience—which is exactly why Tara Foley chose to pursue her dream of opening Follain here in the South End. Situated on a busy corner of Dartmouth Street, just blocks from Back Bay station, Follain is fresh and welcoming with a sort of green apothecary vibe to the space. White tile, a centerpiece sink, wood details, dainty black table mirrors, and succulents throughout are punctuated with bric-a-brac from salvage markets around New England, including Brimfield Antique Show.
Foley is a recent Babson MBA graduate, but her interest in clean skincare has deeper roots than just business plans or a local need to fill. Foley spent time learning how personal care products are made from the ground up—a lavender farm in France, skincare line in Maine—but she also launched a blog (The Natural Chemyst) where after years of coverage, relationships had been nurtured among over twenty brands which she now stocks. With a business competition prize and the realization that beauty is a tactile experience, Foley had her a-ha moment for the store whose title means "healthy, wholesome, and sound" in Gaelic.
Follain organizes itself differently than the typical beauty shop: the 25 American brands (several of which are regional) are arranged by product category, not by company. Because everything is a natural, botanical-based formula, different lines can be used together without losing potency or benefits (unlike those department store multi-step programs requiring you to purchase a whole collection). Three of the companies—Dr. Alkaitis, Farmaesthetics, and Tammy Fender (a Gwyneth Paltrow favorite)—were the first to enter the natural skincare space, though until now they have rarely been available for purchase outsides spas and hotels. Natick-based Shamanuti formulates its line in Fall River, and an activated charcoal gel face wash has proven a top seller for the new boutique.
But here is where it gets really interesting—similar to a brewery's growler program, Foley has the concept of selling Follain-branded reusable glass pump bottles to fill as needed with a pay per ounce soap system. Each year, Americans dispose of two million pounds of plastic waste, so this is Foley's way of doing something good for your body and Mother Earth. Above that centerpiece sink we mentioned, three large metal jugs are at the ready to dispense mild castile soaps from regional manufacturers (currently on rotation are soaps from Maine, Vermont, and Quincy, MA). Coming in a 16 ounce bottle and a travel-ready 3 ounce bottle, customers pay a deposit ($8 and $5 respectively) then $1 per ounce for the first fill and $0.50 per ounce thereafter. Is that genius or what? We can already see Follain impacting more than our beauty shelf.
· Follain [Official Site]
· The Natural Chemyst [Official Blog]